This year, I am embarking upon two very scary (to me anyway) endeavors…two major personal goals for 2016: Running a half marathon, and writing a book.
What I have come to understand over the past few years, is that results and big changes don’t happen by chance. And they don’t happen because I simply want them to happen. We achieve our goals because we will them to fruition, plain and simple. Anyone can decide to want something. Deciding upon a goal, and then doing the work required to get there takes a bucket load of effort and self motivation because the decision is easy, but the work is difficult.
My sister-in-law ran a marathon last year, and we had a brief conversation about it. What she said to me struck a sweet sounding chord. She said that she wanted to run it prove to herself that she could do anything – even something as dauntingly monumental as running 26.2 miles – if she was prepared to do so. It’s a simple statement, but one that often does not click with most of us. The thought that any goal is possible, if one has the will to prepare, is quite profound. Her statement knocked it down for me, and I decided right then and there that I would complete my goals this year.
So, here it is, the beginning of May, and I’m getting there. Like a hesitating, creeping turtle, I am indeed moving forward.
These days, motivation comes from a desire to prove (to myself) that if I put my mind to a task, and I take precise, structured action, I will actually do what I set out to do. If I have the will to prepare every day, I will check both goals off my list.
Now, for the big question to ponder: Where the hell does the will to prepare come from? Motivation is a conundrum, especially when our goals seem so far away but I believe that to achieve anything, one must have a plan.
First, I will lean into uneasy feelings and endure being uncomfortable
When things feel uneasy or difficult, we need to lean into them instead of away. In many cases, we back off when we are feeling uncertain. The human reaction is to exclaim, “check, please!” when things feel too difficult (can’t run another step, can’t finish a single sentence, etc.). When I remember that uneasy feelings are temporary, it soothes me in the moment, and takes away much of the annoyance of completing the task at hand. In other words, a hill is only a hill until you get to the top, then it miraculously isn’t a hill anymore, it’s a view. Learning to resist the urge to quit is the biggest building block of training success as it provides much needed breakthroughs in mental toughness. Progress is the result, and that progress is the prize of preparation. When we stay in the uneasy moment as long as possible, we make progress toward our goal(s) within that moment.
Most of us try like hell to avoid feeling uncomfortable. In many situations, we have the choice of fight or flight. When I run, sometimes my instinct is to just give up ~ I’m tired, it’s hot, I hate it, etc. Learning to stay and fight for progress is exactly that…a learned thing. When we understand that most of the time we can overcome our flight mentality in order to stay and endure the fight, it helps tremendously, but we can’t know that fighting is worth it until we’ve done it a few times. If our instinct is to avoid the unpleasant, or run away from the uncomfortable, we never reap the sweet rewards of sticking with it. It’s important to explore that side of ourselves and endure the fleeting feeling of avoidance.
Second, I will trust the process
No one achieves anything in a day, so we must stop thinking that way. We’ve all heard the expression, “slow and steady wins the race.” I have seen this countless times when when I run races. Sometimes the runners who start with a slower pace will easily pass me at the two mile mark, mainly because I bolted out of the gate unreasonably fast (for me). While I’m running out of steam, they are able to pick it up.
When I first started running, I couldn’t even run one whole lap without stopping. I gradually worked on my endurance, and steadily began to increase my distance. It was a process...and the process works if you let it. One lap became three, which then became six, and before I knew it, I could run four to six whole miles at a clip. It took some time, but it happened.
With writing, I find that it’s best to concentrate on one page at a time. If I can simply finish one page at a time, the pages of my book have a funny way of accumulating. Not thinking too far ahead in the story helps me stay focused on the task at hand, which is to simply finish the damn page.
Trust the process because it works.
Third, I will follow a planned schedule
Goals become easier when we follow a planned schedule. Most of us resist over-planning, but that is exactly what is needed to achieve goals. With training for a race, it’s important to put in the required miles and to “follow the rules” so that preparation goes as planned. It’s beneficial to follow the schedule as precisely as possible, so that the race goes as well as possible when it finally happens. In doing this, we have to make the choice to give up some of our personal time and other life endeavors. We tend to forget that reaching goals involves some sacrifice. But when we remember that our sacrifice is actually an investment that will be rewarded, it supplies much needed motivation to keep going.
Writing requires a schedule as well. One of the myths about writers and writing is that if you are a writer, words flow naturally onto the sheet, and stories easily materialize. Not true! Writing one single sentence or paragraph can sometimes take days and days. A planned schedule helps writers because time and time again, pieces are revisited with a different set of discerning eyes for revision and fine tuning. An actual schedule helps to keep the commitment to the story alive. A schedule keeps the book breathing.
Fourth, I will allow plenty of time
Having plenty of time is great, as long as we use it wisely. Goals seem far away, but that is a good thing and will work in our favor. I feel that a whole year is more than enough time to achieve what I have planned for myself. My “plenty of time” rule allows for months of training and writing with lots of life in between. The “lots of life in between” part is one of the most important elements for success.
Finally, I will finish
I’m going to finish a half marathon in the fall. I made a promise (a resolution) to myself this year because I knew I needed new goals to maintain motivation, and running that distance is not something I ever thought I could do in a million years. Seriously, a million years. With proper preparation, however, I know I will do it.
And I’m going to finish writing a damn book. I made this promise to myself because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I have always known I could do, if I engaged in the focus and discipline necessary. I started writing when I was a little kid. I stopped for what seemed like forever because I let myself stop and I allowed myself to give up. Like many people, I took myself out of my own dreams. I thought I wasn’t good enough, and that no one would ever want to read a single word I wrote. But here it is, the beginning of May, and I am trudging on to Chapter 5. I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, and I have a secret weapon – the will to prepare.
I let a disease swallow me whole for most of my life. I clawed my way out of darkness, and now it’s happening – my life, as it should be, is happening. My goals, my dreams, and all the things I want to do are happening. And I know that for me, it’s not about winning or publishing. It’s actually much bigger than that. It’s about finishing.
How will you finish this year?